By Michael Mapstone
Manly scored a long-awaited first win of the season with an emphatic 42-14 away victory over North Sydney.
Having not previously defeated the Bears at North Sydney Oval, the Sea Eagles laid the foundations for their much needed victory with a superb first half display that saw them up 32-0 at the break.
Manly opened its account early when fullback Clint Gutherson made a quick dart from dummy half and found Cheyse Blair in support, the centre crashing over. Halfback Manaia Rudolph converted.
However, the match seemed an even contest until the mid-point of the first half, when the Sea Eagles opened up the Bears defence with some rapid on-line ball movement. Jayden Horo was the beneficiary, crossing unmarked in the corner. Rudolph missed the conversion, but Manly were up 10-0.
Just two minutes later five-eight Jack Littlejohn found the gap in a 12-man North Sydney defensive line, making a neat break before drawing and passing for Tom Symonds to run 20 metres untouched and plant the ball under the posts. Rudolph’s conversion extended the lead to 16.
Manly was suddenly full of confidence and immediately went back on the attack, Daniel Harrison cutting through Norths defenders on a 50 metre run. The Bears were on the back foot, and two plays later Rudolph was able to dive over for a try that he duly converted.
The floodgates had clearly opened when, at the half-hour mark, Littlejohn sliced through two defenders and ran 45 metres to score under the posts, Rudolph again converting to make it 28-0.
Minutes later Manly looked certain to score again when Blair batted back a high kick to Symonds, who put a strong fend on former Test star Lote Tuqiri. But the ex-international three-quarter, playing in the less customary fullback role, came back at Symonds and managed to rake the ball from his grasp over the line.
Despite that show of resistance, Manly continued to press from the ensuing drop-out and Rudolph soon scored his second. Although he did not convert, his side led 32-0 at the break and the Bears fans were already despairing.
But Norths weren’t about to give up and 10 minutes after half-time Jackson Williams gave the home crowd something to cheer about when he barged over adjacent to the posts. Kurt Aldridge converted.
Two minutes later Norths second rower Chris Grevsmuhl made a clean break and found Nathaniel Neale in support as the cover defence came across. Neale then found Joe Uluibau in support and the centre ran the final 20 metres to score in the right hand corner. Aldridge missed the sideline conversion attempt, but at 32-10 there was a faint whiff that a comeback might be possible.
It was another 10 minutes before Manly ensured that would not be the case. A well-timed pass by Symonds allowed Gutherson to skirt down the right edge. He found support in Matt Ikuvalu, who in turn gave Blair a clear run to the line. But Blair generously handed the ball on to a deserving Jayden Hodges, the hooker registering his first try of the season. Rudolph converted from in front.
Just three minutes later prop Jake Trbojevic crashed over off a lovely short ball from Tom Symonds to complete Manly’s scoring.
The Bears were the last to register points when, with 12 minutes remaining, Joe Uluibau managed to clean up a cross-field kick from halfback Jordan Worboys. Aldridge missed the conversion from wide out, leaving the score at 42-14.
The Bears will be at home once again this weekend when they host Wenty on Sunday afternoon while Manly head down to Wollongong on Saturday afternoon to face the Cutters.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 42 (M Rudolph 2, T Symonds, J Horo, C Blair, J Littlejohn, J Hodges, J Trbojevic tries; M Rudolph 5 goals) def. North Sydney Bears 14 (J Uluibau 2, J Williams tries; K Aldridge goal) at North Sydney Oval.